**Warning, contains spoilers**
(Read Part I here) You might be saying “Yeah, but the story doesn’t follow any women, it follows Kumail.” And to that I would say, “Yup.” The story doesn’t follow any women; instead they’re used to portray certain emotions/themes. Kumail’s mother and potential wives represents his ties to a culture that he’s trying to break ties from. Emily represents his potential for new love, and how he has to fight to keep it alive. Aidy represents his journey as a comedian, first beginning as a child (represented in the brief moments we see her perform), moving to her success of being accepted into the comedy festival, and ending with her decision to move to New York to pursue comedy. For a film that markets itself as a progressive film about rebellion the cultural restrictions of the past, it sure does its best to keep women in their “place.”
This isn’t the first time I’ve noticed this portrayal of women. I noticed it last year when I saw Don’t Think Twice, a film I truly enjoyed, being an improv performer myself, but I had trouble with the films white-wash portrayal of “lazy women.” Gillian Jacobs plays “Samantha” a girl who never quite fits in but finds solace in the comfort in improv group, and despite her talent, finds herself skipping the biggest audition of her life due to nerves. Also in the group is “Allison” (Kate Micucci) a stereotypical quirky girl who loves to draw comics but has never had the courage to get them published, and “Lindsay” (Tami Sagher) a rich girl who spends all her free time smoking weed in her parents’ luxurious brownstone. The film has happy endings for all involved, but I still felt my stomach twist at the white-washed cluster of women in comedy, and how a man’s portrayal of them resulted in shell-shocked, nervous, and unmotivated characters (despite the constant hints at the hard work they do off screen).
As FF2 Media Editor-in-Chief Jan Lisa Huttner said, “For me, one thing that jokes do is define who is in versus who is out. If you get the joke, then you are in and if you don’t—or you get it but don’t laugh—then you’re out. All too often, the guys are in because most jokes as for them, but it never occurs to them that if THEY don’t think the joke is funny, that’s because they are out. Instead of asking ourselves why are all these women laughing?, they just think this just isn’t funny. Oh, really? Says You!
Humor is a weapon. Sometimes it’s a weapon for good! Comedy has the power to change perspective, change opinion, and change the way we treat other people. It even has the power to make us more empathetic! But it can also be used to make us feel dumb, to make us feel less important, to make us feel singled out and naked. Having your race/gender/voice as one of the joke tellers makes it a safer place, and I definitely don’t want to be in a world where the joke-tellers are all male and white, so I’m glad that Kumail is helping change the game. But, I hope that in the future there can more comedies that highlight race and gender.
Top Photograph: Poster for Don’t Think Twice.
Middle Photograph: The cast of Don’t Think Twice.
Bottom Photograph: The cast of Don’t Think Twice during an improv exercise.
Photo Credits: Jon Pack